PacWest Softball: UH-Hilo Picked to Finish Third
Peejay Brun’s first year leading the University of Hawai’i at Hilo softball team ended somewhat abruptly.
Playing for an opportunity to make it to the NCAA West regional tournament, the Vulcans won 10 consecutive games and was looking for its eleventh, but darkness ended their game with Hawai’i Pacific University in a 5-5 tie in the tenth inning on April 25.
We will never know if a win against HPU would’ve sent UH-Hilo to the regionals, but Brun hopes that the strong finish to last season will continue into 2016. Her fellow coaches in the PacWest Conference see the potential for another strong season for the Vulcans, voting UH-Hilo third in the PacWest Softball Preseason Poll, released on Thursday.
UH-Hilo finished the 2015 season with an overall record of 31-16-1 and a conference mark of 20-10-1. The Vulcans finished behind conference champion Dixie State, who received all 12 first place votes and was projected to finish at the top again this season, and Caifornia Baptist, who was last year’s runner-up.
This year’s challenge for Brun is finding new sources of offense. Four of last year’s top five hitters on the team have all moved on, as well as much of the pitching staff.
The only returning pitcher from a season ago is junior Danielle Wilson, who went 13-7 in 2015. Six other returning players will help fill out a largely new roster, anchored by senior infielder Brittany Huff, who batted .312 last season with 20 runs batted in.
Saturday’s alumni game will give Brun, as well as the fans, a first glimpse of what’s ahead for the program. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m. at the UH-Hilo Softball Field.
UH-Hilo will open up the season at the Desert Stinger in Henderson, Nev., where the Vulcans will play five games in three days. First up will be Regis University and Cal State San Bernardino on Feb. 5.
2016 PacWest Softball Preseason Poll (first place votes in parenthesis)
Dixie State (12) – 144 points
California Baptist – 130
Hawai’i-Hilo – 105
Academy of Art – 99
Hawai’i Pacific – 93
Concordia – 83
Azusa Pacific – 80
Notre Dame de Namur – 66
Dominican – 56
Chaminade – 35
BYU-Hawai’i – 30
Holy Names – 15
2016 Preseason All-PacWest Softball Team
Catcher – Madison Hernandez (Azusa Pacific)
First Base – Mallory Paulson (Dixie State)
Second Base – Catlyn Cavender (Dominican)
Third Base – Nicki Sprague (Azusa Pacific)
Shortstop – Toni Cardoza (Notre Dame de Namur)
Outfield – Janessa Bassett (Dixie State), Tayler Castro (Cal Baptist), Alessandra Giannavola (Notre Dame de Namur)
Pitcher – Aryn Feickert (Dixie State), Kayla Hatch (Cal Baptist)
Utility – Brooklyn Beardshear (Dixie State)